Chester Jail Cell
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22. Chester Jail Cell

Plush Italian Hotel

ChesterThe dark, deserted streets of the city of Chester offered me little consolation. In desperation, I stopped a police officer, who politely listened as I related my sad story. "I remember the Church Army during the Second World War," he said. "Yours was the best cup of tea at the front!" To my surprise, he then added, "I don't see why you couldn't stay in a Chester jail cell in the circumstances!" Entering the Chester Jail, its bareness surprised me. A barred window made a picture frame of the stars at the far end. As I sat on the hard wooden bed on one side, I sighed in relief and gratitude. The officer handed me a pile of coarse gray blankets with a smile. Then, as a symbol of my freedom, even within the jail confines, he pushed back the heavy steel door and left it ajar! Lying there, I chuckled to myself, "How different these plain emulsion paint surroundings and hard boards are to the luxurious comfort I enjoyed last night in that plush Italian hotel!" Later I could boast, "I'm probably the only American tourist ever to have slept in a jail cell as a free man!"

Zealous Evangelists

Detroit AirportSo my tour of Great Britain over, I flew back to Detroit, where Captain Jones met me. My bubbling enthusiasm entirely overcame him. "We must strive in the American Church Army," I insisted, "to be zealous evangelists like our English colleagues. Our main aim must be evangelism, and everything else we do can only be a by-product of it." Straightforward "no-nonsense" evangelism was my way!

Reservation Stories

Dream CatcherCaptain Ray Lewis joins England's mission work at the seaside. When he came to England, "Ia Sunke Inyanke" or "Running Horse" was his honorary name while working on the Sioux reservation. The children knew he was coming, but suddenly, when they least expected it, he charged in, cloaked in a blanket and with Indian beadwork dangling around his neck. They enjoyed trying the war cries and faltering tribal dancing with me. Then they settled down to listen to a story about my native Christian brothers across the seas. Stories of Noisy Hawk, Blacklance, and others on the reservations in Dakota left them spellbound.

Preaching Mission

Coal Miner in EnglandAfter summer work with the children and the holiday crowds were over, I joined a month-long preaching mission to a coal mining town in Northern England. The mine owner, a devout Christian, witnessed to his faith and encouraged us to do the same. Dressed in heavy overalls, a steel helmet, and carrying a brass lantern, I stepped into the mine elevator cage and dropped like a stone to the coal face. The cutting machines' shattering noise and clouds of choking dust down there made communication nigh on impossible. Later in the canteen's relative calm, I chatted over lunch with some of these tough working people. We had very different occupations and ideas about faith in Christ. ✞

Hope Street Liverpool

Liverpool docklandHope Street, Liverpool, connects the Roman Catholic and Anglican cathedrals. From this coal-mining town in Northern England, my next destination was the port of Liverpool. The city was still clearing away after the bombing of the Second World War, but on the hilltop stood two large cathedrals built in modern times. In this city, Protestants and Catholics have so often clashed. Ironically, the soaring Roman Catholic concrete tower stands at one end, and the majestic traditional Anglican building at the other end of an avenue called "Hope Street." Its name perhaps enshrines a future dream. In the city's docks, Captain Ken Weaver visited seamen on ships from many countries to share with them his hope and trust in Jesus Christ. I went aboard several vessels. One was from India, but only a few of the sailors understood any English. Loaded with literature, a record player, and records in many languages, we clambered up a rope ladder. We then sought out an Officer for permission to visit the men. Initially, they viewed us with suspicion. When they heard in their Indian dialect a Bible reading backed by traditional melodies on record, their faces lit up. They excitedly clamored to hear "a little bit of home."

Rescue Mission

Captain Ray talks to a vagrant man about Christ in a Liverpool rescue mission and later to a prisoner condemned to death in Durham Prison. Captain Ken had a great love for the "down and outs" in Liverpool and held a gospel service at a rescue mission in the city slums. Ken was making the final appeal. A bedraggled character interrupted suddenly and said, "I took one of your Gospels and have slept with it under my pillow every night!" Amused at this strange statement, Ken replied with a grin, "It will do you no good there, pal!" After the Liverpool Rescue Mission, two young fellows from Southern Ireland, depressed because they couldn't find work or a place to stay, came over to talk to us. During the conversation, I suggested they made their prayer needs known to Jesus to help them. One, being a staunch Roman Catholic, insisted on bringing in the Virgin Mary. Anxious about being sidetracked, I explained, "He does not have time to talk about her now!" Bewildered, the man muttered, "No time for da blessed Mary?"

Condemned in Durham Prison

Durham PrisonHowever, I did have time to talk about the Lord Jesus with the inmates of Durham Prison. That Sunday morning, as I was about to go into the Chapel to preach, the Chaplain unexpectedly drew me to one side. "Captain, you better know this," he said. "There is a man with us today who is awaiting execution! You can't see him, but he'll be behind the curtains to the left of you." My heart was heavy, thinking about this one so close to meeting his Maker. Earnestly I prayed as I preached, "Oh, that this one man will hear your voice, O Lord. Perhaps he might make a last-minute commitment to Christ-like the thief on the Cross." Drained in Spirit, I descended from the pulpit, having preached my heart out to a stranger hidden behind a curtain!

"Chester Jail Cell"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

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